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“What in the World Have You Done To Me, My Lover?” Sex, Servitude, and Politics among the Pre-Conquest Nahuas as seen in the Cantares Mexicanos *

  • Camilla Townsend (a1)


The year 13-Reed [1479]. It was at this time that the people of Ame-cameca and the Chalcas Tlalmanalcas came to sing for the first time in Mexico. At that time they performed the song of the women of Chalco, the Chalca Cihuacuicatl. They came to sing for the lord Axayacatzin.

The song and the dance were begun in the patio of the palace while Axayacatl was still inside in the house of his women. But in the beginning the song was poorly performed. A noble of Tlalmanalco was playing the music very clumsily, and making the great drum sound in a lazy offbeat way until finally in desperation he leaned down over it, not knowing what else to do.

There, however, close to the place of the drums, was a man called Quecholcohuatzin, noble from Amecameca, a great singer and musician as well. When he saw that all was being lost and that the song and the dance were being ruined, he quickly placed himself next to the drum section. He picked up a drum and through his effort he gave new strength to the dance so that it would not be ruined. Thus Quecholcohuatzin made the people sing and dance. . . . Axayacatl who was still inside the palace, when he heard how marvelously Quecholcohuatzin played the music and made the people dance, was surprised, and his heart filled with excitement. He quickly arose and left the house of his women and joined in the dance. As Axayacatl approached the place of the dance his feet began to follow the music and he was overcome with joy as he heard the song and so he too began to dance and spin round and round.

When the dance was over, the lord Axayacatl spoke, saying, “Fools, you have brought this fumbler before me, who played and directed the song. Don’t let him do it again.” The people from Chalco answered him, saying, “It is as you wish, supreme lord.” And because Axayacatl had given this command, all the nobles of Chalco became terrified. They stood there looking at each other, and it is said that truly they were very frightened.

. . . But the lord Axayacatl was well pleased [with Quecholcohuatzin] and continued to take delight in the “Song of the Women of Chalco,” the Chalca Cihuacuicatl. So it was that once again he had the Chalcas, all of the nobles, return, and he asked them to give him the song and he also asked all those from Amecameca, because the song was theirs, it belonged to the tlailotlaque, the men who had returned. The song was their property, the “Song of the Warrior Women of Chalco.” Chimalpahin, Seventh Relation Ms. Mexicain 74, Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris Folios 174-176

The indigenous historian Chimalpahin seemed quite certain that events on a certain day in 1479 had unfolded as he described them, though he wrote over a century later and saw it all through the refracting lens of the intervening Spanish conquest. Posterity has been the more inclined to believe him since there exists a song amongst those collected in the sixteenth century under the auspices of the Franciscans entitled “The Song of the Women of Chalco” (Chalca cihuacuicatl) in which the singer addresses Axayacatl as the conqueror of Chalco and as her own lord and master. But what can we in the twenty-first century make of these two sources? We might pursue a number of interpretive avenues. In this article I will ask specifically what we actually know about the fifteenth-century performance event, and what, if anything, we can glean from the song concerning the lives of the Nahua women in that nearly untranslatable category whom we know in English as “concubines.”



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This work could never have taken its present form without the help of Jonathan Amith, Michel Launey, James Lockhart, Jennifer Ottman and Susan Schroeder. I am forever in their debt.



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1 This English translation of the Náhuatl text appears in León-Portilla, Miguel, “The Chalca Cihuacuicatl of Aquiauhtzin: Erotic Poetry of the Nahuas,” New Scholar 5:2 (1978), pp. 235262.

2 The best summary of what we know is Lockhart, James, The Nahuas After the Conquest: A Social and Cultural History of the Indians of Central Mexico, Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992), pp. 392400 . For a literary analysis, see Leon-Portilla, Miguel, “Cuicatl y Tlahtolli: Las Formas de Expresión en Náhuatl,” Estudios de cultura náhuatl 16 (1983), pp. 13108 . Bierhorst, John, ed., Cantares Mexicanos: Songs of the Aztecs (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985 ) is a complete edition of the Cantares, giving both the Náhuatl and an English translation. It is in many ways a superb work, but it is marred by Bierhorst’s insistence on adjusting his translations—even to the point of inaccuracy—so that the songs seem to fit the “ghost song” tradition known to have existed among tribes of the American mid-west.

3 Leon-Portilla, , in “Chalca Cihuacuicatl” (pp. 24042), presents a lengthy commentary on the song’s likely political origins, based on what he found in the annals of Chimalpahin. Bierhorst in Cantares (pp. 502-503) attempts to demolish Chimalpahin, claiming that everything he said about the song and its com position came out of the song itself, but he does not substantiate that argument at all effectively. Kay Read (in this issue) offers a thoughtful analysis of the song, unquestionably demonstrating its political content.

4 See Schroeder, Susan, Chimalpahin and the Kingdoms of Chalco (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1991) on the political situation, especially pp. 7476 . It is worth noting, in addition, that Chimalpahin’s original quotation contains over a page of additional information concerning Axayacatl’s relationship with the brilliant performer Quecholcohuatzin: Chimalpahin is unlikely to have been completely wrong about a key event in the life of an individual who was obviously a famous singer and historical personage in his world.

5 Bierhorst, Cantares, pp. 263-267.

6 Cited in Bierhorst>, Cantares, p. 504.

7 Literary critics remind us that irregular structure often indicates that less educated people were involved in the production of a work. In Europe and Japan, for example, women were the first to write novels because they were less well versed in literary styles of poetic composition.

8 On women performing, see Anderson, Arthur J. O., “Aztec Wives,” in Schroeder, Susan, Wood, Stephanie and Haskett, Robert, eds., Indian Women of Early Mexico (Norman: University of’Oklahoma Press, 1997), pp. 8182 , and León-Portilla, Miguel. Fifteen Poets of the Aztec World (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992). pp. 17577 .

9 Leon-Portilla, , “Chalca Cihuacuicatl,” p. 244 . For erotic translations, see not only that article but also his Fifteen Poets, and more recently, In the Language of Kings: An Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature, edited with Shorris, Earl (New York: Norton, 2001).

10 Garibay, Angel Maria, ed., Poesía Náhuatl (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2000), Vol. III, pp. 5560 .

11 Evans, Susan Toby, in “Sexual Politics in the Aztec Palace: Public, Private, Profane,” Res 33 (1998), pp. 167183 , emphasizes women’s use of flattery to gain their ends and empower themselves. Read, Kay in “The Chalcan Woman’s Song” in this issue and Manuel Lučena Salmoral in America 1492 (New York: Facts on File, 1990) make more of the element of teasing and mockery.

12 Bierhorst, Cantares, pp. 502 and 506.

13 Nash, June, “The Aztecs and the Ideology of Male Dominance,” Signs 4 (1978), pp. 34962 . Though Nash’s work has been superceded, it was pioneering at the time.

14 See Brown, Betty Ann, “Seen But Not Heard: Women in Aztec Ritual.” In Text and Image in PreColumbian Art ed. Berlot, Janet (Oxford: British Archaeological Reports Press, 1983); Louise Burkhart, “Mexica Women on the Home Front: Housework and Religion in Aztec Mexico,” in Indian Women of Early Mexico; Bruhns, Karen and Stothert, Karen, Women in Ancient America (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999); Clendinnen, Inga, Aztecs: an Interpretation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Joyce, Rosemary, Gender and Power in Prehispanic Mesoamerica (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000); Kellog, Susan, “The Woman’s Room: Some Aspects of Gender Relations in Tenochtitlan in the Late Pre-Hispanic Period,” Ethnohistory 42 (1995), pp. 56376 ; McCafferty, Sharisse and McCafferty, Geoffrey, “Powerful Women and the Myth of Male Dominance in Aztec Society,” Archaeological Review from Cambridge 7 (1988), pp. 4559 ; Sullivan, Thelma, “Tlazolteotl-Ixcuina: The Great Spinner and Weaver,” in Boone, Elizabeth Hill, ed., The Art and Iconography of late Post-classic Central Mexico (Washington, DC, 1983 ). There is still a competing school of thought, though its adherents are in the minority, which maintains that indigenous women were indeed oppressed—though no more so, such scholars would now add, than were European women. See Rodriguez, María and Shadow, Robert, “Las mujeres aztecas y las españolas en los siglos XVI and XVII,” Colonial Latin American Historical Review 5 (1996), pp. 2146. Thus far, studies of Aztec women have been based on formal texts, but currently, some younger scholars are using mundane literature, such as wills and litigation, to study women in real-life action, and they are proving that in the second half of the sixteenth century, at least, women were active and vocal participants in their marriages and other social relations. See Sousa, Lisa, “Women in Native Societies and Cultures of Colonial Mexico,” PhD Dissertation, Department of History, UCLA, 1998 .

15 Burkhart, “Mexica Women,” p. 26.

16 Clendinnen, Aztecs, p. 157

17 Susan Schroeder, “Introduction,” Indian Women of Early Mexico, p. 13.

18 Rebecca Horn, “Gender and Social Identity: Nahua Naming Patterns in Postconquest Centra] Mexico,” in Indian Women of Early Mexico, p. 107.

19 Davis, Natalie Zemon, “Iroquois Women, European Women,” in Mancali, Peter and Merrell, James, eds., American Encounters: Natives and Newcomers from European Contact to Indian Removal (New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 104 .

20 Anderson, Arthur J. O., “Aztec Wives,” in Indian Women of Early Mexico, pp. 6869 . He notes that this stood in stark contrast to the Spanish practice of insisting that married women at all times had a duty to be accessible to their husbands.

21 Molina, Fray Alfonso de, Vocabulario en Lengua Mexicana y Castellana (Mexico City: Porrúa, [1571], 1992), p. 90v .

22 Fray Toribio de Benavente o Motolinia, Memoriales, o Libro de las Cosas de la Nueva España (Mexico City, 1971), p. 366.

23 The concept of “calpolli” is difficult to translate easily. It bore something in common with our notion of parish and of ward; it was a subdivision of an altepetl, or ethnic state. For the best discussion of its nature, see Lockhart, The Nahuas, pp. 15-20.

24 To follow this debate, see first Hicks, Frederick, “Dependent Labor in Prehispanic Mexico,” Estudios de cultura náhuatl 11 (1975), pp. 24366 ; then Carrasco, Pedro, “The Provenience of Zorita’s Data on the Social Organization of Ancient Mexico,” in Chipping Away on Earth: Studies in Prehispanic and Colonial Mexico in Honor of Arthur J.’O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble (Lancaster, CA: Labyrinthos, 1994); and finally Lockhart, The Nahuas, pp. 96102 . An excellent study of these issues in a particular locale is Horn, Rebecca, Postconąuest Coyoacan: Nahua-Spanish Relations in Central Mexico, 1519-1650 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997 ), chapter 5.

25 Cline, S. L., The Book of Tributes: Early Sixteenth-Century Náhuatl Censuses from Morelos (Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center, 1993), pp. 2930 .

26 Katz, Friedrich, Situación social y económica de los aztecas durante los siglos XV y XVI (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1966), p. 146 , and Hicks, “Dependent Labor,” p. 246, both gathered examples. For language on rulers and lords going forth to gamble, see Anderson, Arthur J.O. and Dibble, Charles E., eds., Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain, (Santa Fe and Salt Lake City: School of American Reseach and University of Utah, 1950-82) (henceforth “FC”), Vol. 8, p. 29.

27 An early example was Carlos Bosch García, La Esclavitud Prehispánica entre los Aztecas, (Mexico City, 1944). It should be noted that a third type of slave has always been recognized—the sacrifice victim who was given as part of a tribute payment to the Mexica. However, the tribute payers almost always obtained such people through warfare against less powerful neighbors.

28 One example: “Quinmictiaya tlatlacotin.” (“They used to kill slaves” [on that feast day].) FC Vol. 9, p. 45.

29 Lockhart, The Nahuas, pp. 99-100 (commenting on the post-conquest period).

30 Motolinia, Memoriales, pp. 366-72 is the best source, at least on practices in Tetzcoco, but Durán, Torquemada, and the Florentine Codex also provide commentary on the subject.

31 “Auh in ie oquichiuh … ic tehuic, ic temecapal mochiuhtinemi: auh çan no ihui aontleiecoa, aontlaeltia, in itecuacan in ompa teltacauh.” FC Vol. 4, p. 95.

32 In Tetzcoco, this was purportedly true unless an ancestor had entered into an agreement that one member of his family would always be subject to the descendants of the person to whom he sold himself, leaving his descendants in a state of huehuetlacolli. Even in this situation, however, families theoretically chose who would serve for how long, and rotated the responsibility rather than permanently casting out one of their own. If such a slave were mistreated and died on the job, the family members were forever cleared of their labor debt.

33 Lockhart mentions merchants having exchanged children for cloth in The Nahuas, pp. 99-100 and 505. Most of the chronicles mentioning great famines refer to selling children to traveling merchants.

34 Carrasco, David, City of Sacrifice: The Aztec Empire and the Role of Violence in Civilizaion, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999). p. 206 . Compare Heyden, Doris, “Las escobas y las batallas fingidas de la fiesta de Ochpaniztli,” in Religión en Mesoamérica, ed. King, Jaime Litvak and Tejero, Noemi Castillo (Mexico City: Sociedad Mexicana de Antropología, 1972). For a description of the ceremony, see FC, Vol. 2, pp. 118-20.

35 In icuac ompoliuh altepetl, niman ie ic nemalpohualo in quexquich malli. FC Vol. 8, p. 53.

36 Codex Yanhuitlan, cited in Bosch, La Esclavitud Prehispánica p. 102.

37 Durán, Fray Diego, The History of the Indies of New Spain, ed. Heyden, Doris (Norman: University of Oklahoma 1994), p. 254 .

38 Tezozomoc, Don Hernando Alvarado, Crónica Mexicana (Mexico City: Porrúa, 1975), p. 360 . Tezozomoc also makes numerous less explicit references.

39 Durán, , History of ‘the Indies, p. 109 .

40 Ibid., p. 165.

41 Miguel Acosta Saignes mentioned this aspect of the Chihuacoatl’s powers in “Los Pochteca: Ubicación de los Mercaderes en la Estructura Social Tenochca,” Acta Antropológica l (1945). It is repeatedly mentioned in Durán, History of the Indies, pp. 112, 166, 201, 230-31.

42 Tezozomoc, Crónica mexicana, p. 352.

43 FC Vol. 8, p. 53: “Calpolco quicaoauia, in ¡chan tlacatecolotl.” “They used to leave him (such a one) at the place of the great house, where the devil [local god] lived.” Note that in context, it is clear that they were not simply saying that they went to the calpolli—rather, in fact, that they could not simply be distributed to the calpolli as usual.

44 FC Vol. 9, pp. 63, 87. See also Zantwijk, Rudolph Van, The Aztec Arrangement: The Social History of Pre-Spanish Mexico (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), pp. 16465 , and Chapman, Anne, “Port of Trade Enclaves in Aztec and Maya Civilizations,” in Polyani, Karl, Arensberg, Conrad and Pearson, Harry, eds., Trade and Market in the Early Empires (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1957), pp. 12325 .

45 Motolinia, Memoriales, 370-71. FC Vol. 4, p. 95 mentions the threat of selling a woman servant who is useless. In an effort to make sense of the situation, Bosch in La Esclavitud Prehispánica, p. 43, says those sacrificed must have been people who had become slaves to pay their own gambling debts.

46 Hassig, Ross, Trade, Tribute and Transportation: the Sixteenth Century Political Economy of the Valley of Mexico (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press), p. 111 .

47 FC 10, pp. 59-60.

48 Hicks, Frederick, “Cloth in the Political Economy of the Aztec State,” in Hodge, Mary G. and Smith, Michael E., eds., Economies and Polities in the Aztec Realm (Albany, NY: Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, 1994), p. 99.

49 FC Vol. 9, pp. 45-46. Motolinia and other early chroniclers insisted that prisoners dedicated to sacrifice could never be saved from their fate, but they were clearly trying to portray the Aztecs as so steeped in sin as to be in need of being saved from themselves.

50 FC Vol. 10, p. 59 Elsewhere there is a slight distinction between, on the one side, merchant leaders and wealthy slave bathers (pochtecatlatoque and tealtianime) and on the other side, “those who enter enemy territory, those who sell people” (in nahualoztemeca, in teyahualoani yaotitian calaquini, in tecoanime). See FC Vol. 9, pp. 7 and 47, for instance. The two groups are always paired, but separated by ihuan. One scenario that would explain all these examples would be that wealthy and powerful merchant leaders rose from the ranks of those who dared to penetrate foreign territory with their wares, including slaves.

51 “aço cihuatl, aço oquichpiltontli, in ompa quimonnamacaia,” FC Vol. 9, pp. 17-18. Scholars who have looked at this phenomenon include Hassig, Trade, 116, Chapman, “Port of Trade Enclaves,” pp. 125-26 and 139, Berdan, Frances, “Economic Alternatives Under Imperial Rule: The Eastern Aztec Empire” in Economies und Polities in the Aztec Realm, pp. 29798 , Carraso, Pedro, “Markets and Mer chants in the Aztec Economy,” Journal of the Steward Anthropological Society 2 (1980), pp. 26162 .

52 On the equipment as well as the textiles see Anawalt, Patricia, Indian Clothing Before Cortés: Mesoamerican Costumes from the Codices (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1981). On the time put into each stage of cotton production, see Hicks, “Cloth in the Political Economy,” in Economies and Polities in the Aztec Realm. For the shift in women’s work, see Brumfiel, Elizabeth, “Weaving and Cooking: Women’s Production in Aztec Mexico,” in Gero, J. M. and Conkey, M. W., eds., Engendering Archaeology: Women and Prehistory (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1991), esp. pp. 23233 . Joyce summarizes Maya literature on the subject in Gender and Power, pp. 15, 186.

53 Motolinia, Memoriales, p. 322.

54 Cline, Tributes, p. 53, Lockhart, The Nahuas, p. 81. Schroeder, Susan, “The First American Valentine: Nahua Courtship and Other Aspects of Family Structuring in Mesoamerica,” Journal of Family History 23 (1998), p. 342 .

55 Motolinia, Memoriales; pp. 313 and 322-23.

56 Cline, Tributes, pp. 53-54. See also Anderson, “Aztec Wives,” p. 66, on Spanish priests emphasizing the distinction between nemecatiliztli and nenamictiliztli.

57 The will is reproduced and translated by Cline, S.L. in “Fray Alonso de Molina’s Model Testament and Antecedents to Indigenous Wills in Spanish America,” in Kellogg, Susan and Restall, Matthew, eds., Dead Giveaways: Indigenous Testaments of Colonial Mesoamerica and the Andes (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1998), pp. 2224 .

58 Schroeder, Susan, “The Noblewomen ofChalco,” Estudios de cultura náhuatl 22 (1992), pp. 7879 . See Molina’s dictionary for a typical Spanish definition.

59 Gillespie, Susan, The Aztec Kings: The Construction ofRulership in Mexico History (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989, p. xxvi

60 Ibid, chapter 2. See also Boone, Elizabeth Hill, Stories in Red and Black: Pictorial Histories of the Aztecs and Mixtees (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), pp. 16264 .

61 Carrasco, Pedro, “Royal Marriages in Ancient Mexico,” in Harvey, H. R. and Premm, H., eds., Explorations in Ethnohistory: the Indians of Central Mexico in the Sixteenth Century (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984), pp. 5960 . For discussion of the variable modes of succession for a teuctli, or dynastic overlord, see Lockhart, The Nahuas, pp. 103-109.

62 Chimalpahin cited in Gillespie, Aztec Kings, p. 133. Carrasco, “Royal Marriages,” pp. 60-61. See also Calmek, Edward, “Patterns of Empire Formation in the Valley of Mexico, Late Postclassic Period,” and Rounds, J., “Dynastic Succession and the Centralization of Power in Tenochtitlan,” both in The Inca and Aztec States>, 1400-1’800: Anthropology and History (New York: Academic Press, 1982).

63 Carrasco, , “Royal Marriages,” pp. 4246 and 66. See also Carrasco, , “Indian-Spanish Marriages in the First Century of the Colony,” in Indian Women of Early Mexico, pp. 9092 .

64 Nezahualcoyotl, the renowned king who was born c 1400 and ruled until 1472, had many wives and concubines, and purportedly 144 children. The sources, as we have learned to expect, contradict themselves on the name of’ his primary wife. It seems to me quite likely that there was in fact more than one—that is, that Nezahualcoyotl was pressured into changing his mind regarding the succession as Tenochtitlan became more powerful. Nezahualpilli, who became his heir, was only six years old when his father died, and obviously the son of a much younger wife. Whatever her name was, all sources agree that she was the daughter of a Tenochca nobleman, probably a direct descendant of Moctezuma I, and probably had been betrothed to another man before a sudden change was made (for which the predatory Nezahualcoyotl was blamed). We are asked to believe that she was also the mother of a much older previous heir named Tetzauhpiltzintli, who was executed years before his father’s death for an unspecified grave crime against the king. But it is more than likely that one of the several names later applied to Nezahualpilli’s mother actually belonged to a separate woman, who believed she would mother Nezahualcoyotl’s heir when she married him, but later died or was set aside around the time her son Tetza-upiltzintli was killed. We know that judges from Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan joined the Tetzcocan king in pronouncing judgment on his wayward son, thus leaving the succession open again. Certainly history-memorizers living under Tenochtitlan’s power would have been motivated to forget that the executed prince had had a different mother from another altepetl, and to imply that his death was entirely due to his own crimes. One chronicler later blamed his death on a conniving concubine of the king, who had wanted one of her own children to replace him. Certain it is that much later the three adult sons of a favored concubine did become the six-year-old Nezahualpilli’s greatest rivals when their father died, launching a veritable civil war that was only settled when Axayacatl interfered on his young kinsman’s behalf. The three rebels were eventually bought or beaten into submission to the point that it was rumored one was later forced to give a daughter as a concubine (not a wife) to Nezahualpilli. Similar or worse problems emerged in the next generation. King Axayacatl had made sure of Nezahualpilli’s throne, and not surprisingly, the first wife who was presumed to be the one who would mother the heirs was Axayacatl’s daughter. Either she felt more powerful than her husband and really dared to commit adultery, or her husband wanted to strike at his overbearing father-in-law and patron and so accused her of the unspeakable crime. She was executed with great fanfare. Nezahualpilli later took as the mother of his heirs a niece (or some say two nieces) of the next Tenochca king, Tizoc (she was—or they were—also descended of Moctezuma I), and eleven children were born. The eldest was Huexotzincatzin, and the most famous Ixtlilxochitl. By the time Huexotzincatzin became a young man, Tizoc was no longer king; he had been replaced by Moctezuma II, who made efforts to establish dominance over Tetzcoco in a variety of ways. Perhaps it should not surprise us that Huexotzincatzin was accused of committing adultery with one of his father’s concubines, the beautiful and talented poet-daughter of a merchant from Tula. The story of his mother’s useless pleading became well-known. But there is more to the story in reading the fine print: sources elsewhere mention that at least three others of Huexotzincatzin’s brothers were executed as well—one for building his own palace without his father’s permission, and two others for claiming war captives that were not in fact their own. This left a sister of the current king Moctezuma as the apparent first wife, and her son Cacama as the heir. When Nezahualpilli died, however, the surviving full brothers of Huexotzincatzin would have none of it, and launched a civil war leading to the permanent division of the kingdom. Offner, Jerome, Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 22841 , records every single mention of Tetzcoco’s royal history, allowing me to formulate my hypothesis much more easily than 1 otherwise could have. Juan de Pomar (“Relación de Tetzcoco,” in Crónicas de América 65, ed. Germán Vázquez, Madrid, 1992) and don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl ( O’Gorman, Edmundo, ed., Obras Históricas [Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1975-77], Vols. I and II) were both descended from Nezahualpilli, the former through one of his slaves and the latter through a royal wife, and both wrote their own versions of the history. Motolinia (op. cit.) and Juan de Torquemada (Monarquía Indiana [Mexico City: Porrua, 1975], vols. I and II) both lived for a time in Tetzcoco. Chimalpahin ( Schroeder, Susan, ed., Codex. Chimalpahin [Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1997-present], 6 vols.), himself from Chalco, seems to have taken particular interest in the problems of this wealthy and powerful city-state.

65 Schroeder, “Noblewomen of Chalco,” p. 66.

66 Ibid., p. 65.

67 Ibid., pp. 78-79, 85. Chimalpahin also claimed that one king of a small Amecameca lordly house was so taken with one of his wives that he petitioned the Tenochca king to make her children his heirs— he does not explain what the tie was that would have made the emperor happy to comply—and to the days of Chimalpahin himself, the descendants of the other wives were still angry about it, still insisting that the son who inherited was not even really the son of the king. See also Schroeder, , “Looking Back at the Conquest: Nahua Perceptions of Early Encounters from the Annals of Chimalpahin,” in Chipping Away on Earth, pp. 8586 .

68 Schroeder, “Noblewomen of Chalco,” data chart on p. 61, commentary on pp. 67, 75-76. A foundation story of another town can be similarly analyzed, pp. 80-81. The latter even shows shifting power relations, as a story of intradynastic hypergamy in the first generation is followed in the next generation by one of interdynastic hypogamy.

69 Schroeder, , “Looking Back at the Conquest,” p. 85 . Chimalpahin says that before offering their services as allied fighters, two Amecameca kings gave Cortes forty young girls: they were mostly unspecified commoners, but they also asked noblemen to offer up their daughters.

70 Schroeder, , “First American Valentine,” pp. 342344 .

71 Klein, Cecilia, “Rethinking Cihuacoatl: Aztec Political Imagery of the Conquered Woman,” in Josserand, J. K. and Dakin, Karen, eds., Smoke and Mist: Mesoamerican Studies in Memory of Thelma Sullivan (Oxford: BAR International Series, 1988), vol. I, p. 240 .

72 Ibid., pp. 224-227, 237-246. For a fascinating glimpse of this creator-destroyer, see the Cihuacoatl-like image of the Virgin Mary in the Huexotzinco Codex housed in the Library of Congress. Xavier Noguez provides commentary in “The 1531 Codex of Huexotzinco,” in Chipping Away on Earth.

73 Bruhns and Stothert, Women in Ancient America, pp. 253-54. McCafferty, Sharisse and McCafferty, Geoffrey, “The Conquered Women of Cacaxtla: Gender Identity or Gender Ideology?Ancient Mesoamerica 5 (1994), pp. 15972. Current scholarly debate centers around the question as to whether the images actually represent men dressed as women to signify their defeat, or rather demonstrate that women could in reality be important military leaders. It seems to me that neither is necessarily true. What seems clear is that it was ‘important to the victors to represent the painful and humiliating defeat of their enemies’ most highborn woman or women.

74 Burkhart, “Mexica Women,” pp. 1, 30-31.

75 Lockhart, The Nahuas, p. 61. The Mesoamerican pattern of households opening onto small, unroofed spaces or patios is found from the smallest settlements to large complexes such as at Teotihuacan.

76 Lockhart, The Nahuas, p. 59.

77 Cline, Tributes, p. 55, Bruhns and Stothert, Women in Ancient America, p. 133, Kellogg, Susan, Law and the Transformation of Aztec Culture, 1500-1700 (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), pp. 17071 .

78 Chase, Sabrina, “Polygyny, Architecture and Meaning,” in Walde, Dale and Willows, Noreen, eds., The Archaeology of Gender: Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Conference of the Archaeological Association of the University of Calgary, (Calgary, Canada: University of Calgary, 1991).

79 Burkhart, “Mexica Women,” p. 30. Lockhart, The Nahuas, pp. 66-70.

80 Kellogg, “The Woman’s Room”; Bruhns and Stothert, Women in Ancient America, p. 131.

81 Durán, History of the Indies^ 494. See also 462-63 (this is a running theme). See also FC Vol. 8, p. 44; and Burkhart, Slippery Earth, p. 61.

82 FC Vol. 6, p. 240. Joyce in Gender and Power (p. 163) is the most recent one to insist that male informants’ concern about feminine decorum indicates that it was often lacking in their view.

83 Schroeder cites Chimalpahin in “First American Valentine,” p. 347. A version is also found in Durán, History of the Indies, pp. 49-54.

84 Burkhart, Louise, Slippery Earth: Nahua-Christian Moral Dialogue in Sixteenth-Century Mexico (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989), pp. 3435 .

85 FC Vol. 10, pp. 45-46.

86 Lisa Sousa, for example, has studied a 1541 Inquisition case in which a noblewoman named doña Ana berates her husband for sleeping with various female relatives and causing untold pain. Although doña Ana is obviously using the Spanish authorities to rid herself of a husband whom she does not like, possibly for other unstated reasons, it is more than possible that some sort of tensions in relation to his having other women were at the root of their problems. Sousa, “Women in Native Societies,” pp. 256-61.

87 FC Vol. 8, p. 49 and FC Vol. 10, p. 11 and Fig. 108; James Lockhart. Berdan, Frances, and Anderson, Arthur J.O., eds., The Tlaxcalan Actas: A Compendium of the Records of the Cabildo of Tlaxcala, 1545-1627 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1986), p. 82 . The mention of the word “harlot” or “courtesan” brings up a host of questions: it is more than possible that such a notion only came into existence after the conquest. The ahuiani, or pleasure woman, may have existed only to perform sexual roles in certain religious ceremonies, rather than as a paid worker. See Arvey, Margaret Campbell, “Women of Ill-Repute in the Florentine Codex,” in Virginia Miller, ed., The Role of Gender in P re Columbian Art and Architecture (Boston: University Press of America, 1988), and Overmyer-Velázquez, Rebecca, “Christian Morality Revealed in New Spain: The Inimical Nahua Woman in Book Ten of the Florentine Codex,” Journal of Women’s History 10 (1998), pp. 937. An interesting angle is given in FC Vol. 2, pp. 102-103: if a nobleman in the ceremony described wanted to sleep with one of the pleasure women in his own house, he could ask her to come the night of the festival. However, he could not try to keep her there as a concubine. If he did, there would be trouble for both. But even after that he might settle things by marrying her (“niman ic quimocioaoatia, quiiauceuilia”).

88 Chimalpahin cited in Schroeder, “First American Valentine,” p. 347; and Durán, History of the Indies, p. 255. Katz, in Situación social (p. 148), citing Torquemada, says that Nezahualpilli, early in the 1500s, had had to free all the slaves in the city, because there were too many and their discontent was rising.

89 Lockhart, The Nahuas, p. 32. See also Kellogg, Susan, “Aztec Inheritance in Sixteenth-Century Mexico City: Colonial Patterns, Prehispanic Influences,” Ethnohistory 33 (1986), p. 322.

90 Frederick Hicks in “Tetzcoco 1515-1519: The Ixtlilxochitl Affair,” in Chipping Away on Earth argues for the importance of reputation, charisma and patronage in determining the outcome of struggles between siblings.

91 Lockhart, James, “Care, Ingenuity and Irresponsibility: The Bierhorst Edition of the Cantares Mexicanos,” Reviews in Anthropology 16 (1991), p. 130 .

92 I have used the transcription provided by Bierhorst. James Lockhart has compared it with a photocopy of the original in his possession, and informed me in a personal communication that Bierhorst is entirely diplomatic.

93 This may not have been a matter either of disparagement or of affection alone. Inversion in polite forms of address was not uncommon. There is evidence to suggest that in some circumstances less powerful people might address their political superior as “my child” or “my grandchild,” just as a king might call his aides “my fathers.” See Lockhart, , The Nahuas, pp. 8990.

94 Nearly all the literature on complementary gender roles cited in note 13 discusses the importance of marriage and motherhood both in a woman’s life and in that of the calli writ large. For specific treatment of the subject, see Lisa Sousa, “Women in Native Societies.”

95 FC Vol. 11, p. 21.

96 The singer is probably referring to a famous incident of the early 1470s: when the Tlatelolca rebelled, women apparently armed themselves and fought as well. In accounts that are hostile to them, they are described as dancing naked and flinging excrement. See Klein, Cecilia, “Fighting with Femininity: Gender and War in Aztec Mexico,” Estudios de cultura náhuatl 24 (1994), pp. 21953 .

* This work could never have taken its present form without the help of Jonathan Amith, Michel Launey, James Lockhart, Jennifer Ottman and Susan Schroeder. I am forever in their debt.

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